Hakushu 12 Years Review

“A Walk in the Forest on a Foggy Day”

Country: Japan
Brand: Hakushu 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
ABV: 43 %
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Colour: Light Gold

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Nose: Earthy, Floral, Malty and Mineral. The Alcohol is quite strong at first so you have to Nose your way around it carefully. In any case give it sufficient time in the glass. I find Sweet Barley, Fresh Cut Grass and Hay, Wax, Soap, Syrup, light Honey, Nougat, Plants, Nuts, Oak, Dried Fruits (Raisins), Orchard Fruit, Lemon, Margarine and light Pepper. The Nose is as Green as the Bottle. And underneath it all I find a light Medicinal Smoke. It's like taking a walk in a forest on a foggy day.

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Palate: Bitter-Sweet, Young and slightly Edgy with Pear, Green Apple, Grass, Herbal Tea, Wax, Toast, Margarine, Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Lemon Zest, Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom, Mint, light Honey, Floral tones, light Smoke, Oak, Grapes and Grappa.

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Finish: Medium long, Bitter-Sweet and Dry with Ice Tea Lemon, Wax, Syrup, Pepper, Cardamom, Ginger, Oak, Mint, light Smoke and light Honey.

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With added Water, the Nose gets more Lemon, Wax, Soap and Malt. On the Palate I find some Tropical Fruit like Pineapple and Kiwi. But the Finish becomes too Thin. Still, there's room to play with a couple of drops.

Rating: 82

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

The Hakushu Distillery, a Giant Hidden in the Forest!

General Remarks: The Hakushu Distillery was founded in 1973 and is located in a forest on the slopes of Mount Kaikoma in the Toribara district of the city of Hokuto, around 120 km west of Tokyo. The area is also known as Japan's Southern Alps. In 1981 a large expansion took place, now called Hakushu East while the original site is now known as Hakushu West. The Distillery has 8 pairs of Stills at the moment and is owned by the Suntory Group. Most of the Spirit production goes into the Suntory Blends. Four Single Malts are part of the core range as well, namely the NAS Distiller's Reserve, the 12 Years, the 18 Years and the 25 Years. The Hakushu 12 Years is made with both lightly peated and unpeated Malt and matures in Ex-Bourbon Casks (mostly Hogsheads) and some Ex-Sherry Casks. The 12 Years sells at an average 75 US Dollars. I received a bottle of the 12 Years as a Goodbye Present from my closest colleagues during a Happy Hour offered to me on account of my retirement. As you can see I have added a few pictures of the event. It was a great evening! In fact it was great working with this fantastic group of people for so many years. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for the great time we had together. We'll be in touch!

Some of the Stills at Hakushu

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Hakushu 12 Years Smells and Tastes much younger than its actual age. The high location of the Distillery will likely be responsible for that as Whisky matures slower in high altitudes and low temperatures. Unlike its big brother, the Yamazaki, the Hakushu only slightly resembles Scottish Single Malt. It really has its own characteristics. It's Fresh, Light, Clean and very Floral. The Smoke is Ultra-Light but nevertheless forms an important part of the Flavour Profile. If you are a regular Scotch drinker I would advise you to try a sample first before deciding to buy a full bottle. Personally i found that the Hakushu 12 Years grew on me over the last few days. Once I got familiar with the Aromas and Flavours I found myself wanting to take another sip. The Hakusku 12 may not be the preferred Single Malt for everybody but it certainly stands out as remarkable in the Forest of Whiskies that's out there today. 

Jan van den Ende                                                          December 17, 2014

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